I’ve noticed an alarming trend in web design lately for business owners to put big pictures of themselves on their business homepages.

This is bad marketing for so many reasons.

Firstly, customers will look at you, and that’s not what you want.

You want your prospective customers to look at the most important thing on the page, and that’s not you.

The customer doesn’t love you as much as you do. Nobody does.

Sorry to bust your ego, but the most important thing on the page should be your offer, your value proposition, call to action or some key piece of information.

Secondly, if your smiling face is staring directly out of the web page then you are locking your customer into a staring competition. It’s like trying to win a staring contest with your dog (or cat), you’re never going to win.

It’s the same for your customer, in order to break the stare they have to emotionally and physically break contact. Subconsciously this is unsettling and uncomfortable.

So you’re not off to a good start, you’ve made your customer feel uncomfortable and now you’re going to have to work extra hard to make them trust you enough do business with you.

As these research eye tracking heat maps from Eyequant show, when the little person is looking straight ahead it locks our gaze on to him

Yet when his eyes are looking to the offer, our eyes get directed there too.

Thirdly, in almost all situations where you use an image of either yourself or another human being, you want them to be looking at the most important part of the screen or page. That is, use their gaze direction to direct the gaze of your customers.

Here’s a few that do it right.

Notice that both the Dove model and George Clooney are looking at the item of importance.

You can read more about eye tracking and how to use visual cues from the links at the end of this post.

 

You Forgot About the Most Important Person, Again

The above three points are purely technical conversion optimisation elements, however there is also a more fundamental marketing problem.

If, like many of these new site designs, your personal picture takes up the whole height of the screen, then you’ve failed marketing 101.

You’ve made the website totally about you, and not your customer.

This is hugely problematic for two big reasons.

One, from your own marketing perspective your thoughts are totally focussed on yourself. This is going to flow through to everything in your marketing and how you run your business.

You need to stop it straightaway and refocus on your customers.

Two, when a customer comes to your site he or she will instantly get that your site is about you and not them.

That is, your site isn’t going to solve their problem or service their need. Instead, you are using it to blatantly promote yourself and your offerings.

Your site comes across as hugely egocentric, and any prospective customer is unlikely to proceed much further.

 

But My Site is About Me, That’s My Business Name

Fine, if you buy all your products, you can do whatever you like.

No, seriously, I get that many of you are using your personal name as your business name and that's ok.

But in terms of marketing design and content you need to decide if you want to be known for how good you look or for what you can do for your customers.

Again, it’s a matter of focus – you or your customer.

If it really is your customers, then you may need to make some adjustments to your website design and any other marketing material.

 

But Human Faces Create Connection and Empathy

Of course they do, but you need to use them strategically. A portrait of you looking straight at the camera is a must for your About page, social media profile or any other personal and professional profile page.

On a landing page or homepage it’s not. As stated above, the gaze must be directed towards whatever is the most important thing on the page.

Alternatively, the photo should show you in action, doing the thing that you’re offering and selling. So if you’re a speaker or trainer a pic of you in front of an audience is a good choice.

Here's an example.

The subject is looking towards the headlines "High Energy, Lots of Fun Massively Informative."

In this case you get a double whammy of the nice pic of the presenter directing you to an infectious headline and immediately you're hooked. I don't know if these were intentional design elements but they work brilliantly.

 

If you absolutely must use a photo of yourself looking directly at the camera, make it a smaller one. Large images demand attention and trap users into the staring contest. A smaller one can be browsed over quickly. You still get the connection and empathy but without snaring the customer’s gaze.

 

Exceptions

There are a few exceptions when you can make the site more about you than your customers

One is when you are a bona fide star. IE Movie star, rock star, sports star etc.

How do you know if you’re a star? If your name on the bill helps sell more tickets.

However, people in this position usually worked hard to get there; they didn’t start off as stars.

The fashion industry, where image is hugely important, maybe another exception.

There may be others where grabbing and not letting go of a customer's gaze is the objective, but you need to be a highly skilled marketing designer to know when to do that and how to pull it off.

Until next time, here’s looking at you...

 

Predictive eye tracking for your website

7 Marketing Lessons from Eye-Tracking Studies

3 Ways to Increase Your Conversion Rate With Images

The Effect of Human Faces in Web Design

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